How good is technology for our kids?
|   Jul 08, 2015
How good is technology for our kids?

This question haunts me every now and then - Is technology really good for kids? I see kids as young as six months with tablets in trains, airports, and other public places and it amazes me that they like to spend time with technology more than exploring things around. I had a hard time explaining my daughter why she does not have one of her own and why I change its password so often. Yes, I have a tablet which my daughter gets only for few minutes these days. Though I am against giving it to kids unmonitored but my busy days made me give in. I am sure you all know what that means. In one of my weak moments I gave her the tablet for few minutes and thats where it all started. Until that moment she thought it was meant only for me, but then she kept coming back for more. Here I was stumped and had no explanation as to why she can’t have it again for just five more minutes. And you think its just five minutes, what harm can five minutes of viewing do?  But you never know when five minutes turn to fifty minutes in no time. Before we know deadlines becomes history...

There is no denying the fact that kids learn via television, internet, computer/tablet/mobile games and applications. It is a big industry and growing. They create games and applications just for kids as a target audience. I agree they are educative and built keeping kids in mind. However, side-effects of technology should be well considered before we let our children use it. 

Discussed below are some of the challenges for us to ponder upon and the answers may help us make the most of the technology. I leave it to individual judgement whether and how much of  technology is good for your kids. 

Television as medium is less interactive or non interactive. Although computer and internet games and apps are more interactive; but interaction is limited and can be avoided if you may choose.  Are we not keeping our kids away from real social interaction and learnings? 

In today’s age and time where kids are so stressed about competition in school, loads of syllabus to cover and peer pressure to look, dress and talk in certain way. Physical activities play an important role in growing up years. Should we allow TV-time to replace play time for relaxation?

Should we allow our kids to watch television or internet or play computer games unmonitored? Some programs may be harsh for child viewing. They may have lasting effect n your child’s mind. It can sometime result in sleeping and eating disorders.

Should we not try to combine Television/technology viewing with real application and make it interactive by discussing the learnings later? Make sure they understand what they see and distinguish the good and the bad in it. You can help them understand and teach them to differentiate by putting things in perspective. If they learn sharing as a virtue on television, Parents much draw parallel for them to exercise in the future when in social environment. The practical and hands on lessons should not be replaced by technological learnings. Smart boards are introduced in schools and these support and aid learning but should not be replaced by class interaction and practical exercises.

Leave alone the effect it has on the eyes, excessive television/computers can lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle and can or result in health issues and limit brain development. Obesity is a rising issue amongst kids due to inactive lifestyle. Not only the program contents but also the advertisements in between also influence kids. Although the kids maybe watching kids channels, the ads sometimes are not appropriate for kids of all age groups. Some ads may be alright for viewing of a 10 year old but may not be appropriate for a 5 year old.

There have been numerous studies on how excessive television affects behavior and brain development. There are studies that recommend that kids under 2 years old should not be exposed to television and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

Amongst grown up kids tablets and internet have resulted in creating a distance. The generation gap is widened. Also the way kids think has changed .

I am not sure if teaching them fast and getting to their high IQ is the only thing we would like to achieve. We all want our children to be all rounders and real achievers. We want them to be happy, social, smart, disciplined, learned and all of it but may not be in that order. But none of the parents want it any less than the other parent. We all want our kids to be the best. But what is the best and what is best for them is very subjective. But what is the right path? People talk about getting the right balance but I am not sure about that.

Some ways to achieve that balance and tackle these issues could be: 

  • We must consciously decide at what age we would like to introduce our kids to technology and how much of it is good for them. 
  • Do not offer television or computer as an incentive for good behavior or as a reward. Reward always means good things being offered for a good deed. It sends across a message that television viewing is good thing.
  • Set time limits and follow them. 
  • Never place television in children’s room.
  • Parents should watch along with kids to make sure the content is age appropriate. 
  • Child locks should be used for all the channels, applications and websites prohibited for child viewing.
  • While we create deadline for them we must also be mindful of passive viewing of television. Kids are exposed to television commentary or audio in the background - this is known as passive television viewing.
    However, the points stated above are not exhaustive.

To sum it up, technology was invented to make lives easy and simplify things for us. It is here for our benefit and we have it at our disposal to use it to our advantage but do not let it slip out of hand and out of control. You should be in control of technology and let the technology not get the better of you and your kids future. After all technology is as good as its use. 

Disclaimer: The article is based on my opinion, personal experience and my interaction with kids around me. The article is not advisory and readers may use the information exercising their own judgement.

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